The health benefits of chives

August 3, 2010 by  
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Would you believe me if I tell you that my 7-year old twins love chive leaves? Yes, they do. Do not ask me how and the why because I do not know the answers. I only know that I am glad they do and I have a large clump of chives in my garden, some of which I transfer to a pot for indoors come wintertime. Chives belong to the onion (Allium) family, most probably among the smallest members. Other more well-known members are garlic and leek. Its Latin name is Allium schoenoprasum.

Chives are used as a condiment for a variety of dishes. They are also used as decorations and toppings for salads and cold dishes.

According to iloveindia.com, chives have many health benefits, namely:

Here is how my boys like their chives:

  • As extra sandwich flavoring. I cut the raw chive leaves into small pieces and sprinkle all over cheese or sausage spread.
  • As topping on their favorite fried rice-vegetable dish.
  • As garnish for salads.
  • As it is. Would you believe they’d nibble on a chive stalk like they’d nibble on a lolly?

I oveindia.com also gives us info on the nutrition content of chives. 100 grams of chives contains:

Vitamin A 4353 IU
Vitamin A 218 mcg
Vitamin B6  0.138 mg
Niacin  0.647 mg
Riboflavin  0.115 mg
Thiamin  0.078 mg
Vitamin C  58.1 mg
Vitamin E  0.21 mg
Vitamin K  212.7 mg
Calcium  92 mg
Copper  0.157 mg
Iron  1.6 mg
Manganese  0.373 mg
Magnesium  42 mg
Phosphorus  58 mg
Potassium  296 mg
Selenium  0.9 mcg
Sodium  3 mg
Zinc  0.56 mg
Protein  3.27 gm
Fiber  2.5 gm
Water  90.65 gm 
Carbohydrate  4.35 gm
Lipids (Fats)  0.73 gm
Energy  30 Kcal

 

But chives are not only for eating. They can also serve as nice ornamental plant with purple flowers and they serve as natural pest control in your garden.

Sweet potatoes that might just prevent cancer

July 23, 2009 by  
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purpple-potato-kansas-suAnthocyanins are the compounds that give dark fruits (blueberries, red currants, brambles, blood oranges, red grapes) their pigmentation. They are also present in vegetables such red cabbage, red beets, purple corn, and eggplant peels. And now they are also present in sweet potaoes – the purple kind, that is. The purple sweet potato has been specially bred by researchers at Kansas Stte University. But for what purpose? For the prevention of cancer.

Anthocyanins are anti-oxidants and are believed to have health benefits and medicinal value for a wide range of ailments, from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Because they are present in high abundance in nature and in the food stuff we eat everyday, they have become one of the most popular research topics of nutritionists and epidemiologists.

The purple sweet potatoes are really purple inside as well as outside, and well, have significantly higher concentrations fo anthocyanins than ordinary sweet potatoes you normally find in the supermarmet. Especially dominant were two anthyocynin pigment derivatives cyanidin and peonidin. Aside from these two, the potaoes have also much higher total phenolic content. Phenols are also strong anti-oxidants and were reported to have some anti-aging properties.

So here are the advantages of this new “dark” breed of sweet potatoes:

  • Higher anti-oxidant capacity
  • Potential anti-aging properties
  • High anti-cancer components

To test for anti-cancer properties, the researchers treated cultures of human colon cancer cells with cyanidin and peonidin. The results showed “significant cell growth inhibition for the cancer cells, but there were no significant changes in the cell cycle.”

This research is just one of the many that is trying to breed fruit and vegetables that contain more than the usual anthocyanin content. Some of the breeding are done the traditional way whereas others are done using genetic engineering. Plants that are easy to grown, eaten in large quantities, and are usually available the whole year round are especially targetted, such as tomotoes, and yes – sweet potatoes.

Other plants that are rich in anthocyanins are (source: wikipedia)

Food source Anthocyanin content in mg per 100 g
 

 

açaí

320

blackcurrant

190-270

chokeberry

1,480

eggplant

750

orange

~200

Marion blackberry

317

black raspberry

589

raspberry

365

wild blueberry

558

cherry

350-400

redcurrant

80-420

red grape

888

red wine

24-35

purple corn

1,642

 Photo credit: Kansas State University

Black cumin against cancer

May 12, 2009 by  
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nigella_sativa_seedAs more and more disease agents are becoming more and more resistant to mainstream pharmacological therapies, more and more researchers are looking into traditional herbal medicine for alternative treatments.

Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson reported about the potential anti-cancer properties of the Middle Eastern herbal seed Nigella sativa. The researchers observed that the oil extract from these seeds can kill pancreatic cancer cells as well as inhibit development of pancreatic cancer.

Nigella sativa seeds are also called fennel flower, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander, blackseed, black caraway, or black cumin. They are commonly used in the Middle East as well as South Asia as a spice and a food ingredient. In India, they are also eaten after a meal because they are believed to help in digestion and relieve gases. In many Eastern countries, they are used as herbal medicine to cure a wide range of health problems from asthma to diarrhea.

The Nigella sativa seeds have a long history. It has been mentioned in the Old Testament and in the writings of the ancient Greeks. It was found in the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

The Jefferson researchers identified the substance responsible for the seed’s cancer protective properties as thymoquinone, which is a major constituent of the oil extract. The substance in question exhibited anti-inflammatory properties that reduced the release of inflammatory mediators in pancreatic cancer cells.

According to lead Jefferson researcher Dr. Hwyda Arafat

These are very exciting and novel results. Not only patients with chronic pancreatitis could benefit from this, but also several other groups with risk of development or recurrence of pancreatic cancer, such as high-risk family members and post-surgical patients. These potent effects show promise for the herb as a potential preventive and therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer. More importantly, the herb and oil are safe when used moderately, and have been used for thousands of years without reported toxic effects.”

This isn’t the first study to indicate the potential use of black cumin in medicine. A large number studies on Nigella sativa have been performed over the years. A few are summarized below.

  • Iranian scientists reported in 2004 that black cumin seed essential oil is a potent analgesic and antiinflammatory drug.
  • In 2007, Moroccan scientists reported observing anti-tumor properties of black cumin when tested in mice.
  • Indian researchers wrote a comprehensive review last year of the therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa.

The anti-cancer properties of black raspberry

January 20, 2009 by  
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We eat different kinds of fruits and vegetables everyday but we don’t realize that some of these actually contain special compounds that can potentially cure deadly diseases like cancer. A paper in the recent issue of Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research just reported that anthocyanins from black raspberries have anticancer properties. Anthocyanins are flavonoid compounds that are responsible for dark (red, purple or blue pigments) in the leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruits of plants.

The report is based on the research from Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center where they have been testing the effects of anthocyanins from black raspberries on lab rats. The research was led by Dr. Gary Stoner, a professor in the department of internal medicine at Ohio State University. Stoner and his colleagues fed whole black raspberries and the fruit extracts containing high amount of anthocyanins on rats with esophageal cancer. The results showed that both the anthocynanin-rich extracts and the whole raspberry fruits containing similar amount of anthocyanins are effective in preventing esophageal cancer in rats. They discovered that these anthocyanins can inhibit the growth of cancer cells as well as make the cancer cells commit suicide.

Aside from the fruit extracts, Stoner and his colleagues also conducted clinical trials using whole berry powder. These trials also gave promising results but patients are required to take up to 60 grams of powder per day.

“Now that we know the anthocyanins in berries are almost as active as whole berries themselves, we hope to be able to prevent cancer in humans using a standardized mixture of anthocyanins. The goal is to potentially replace whole berry powder with its active components and then figure out better ways to deliver these components to tissues, to increase their uptake and effectiveness. Ultimately, we hope to test the anthocyanins for effectiveness in multiple organ sites in humans,” said Stoner.

Black raspberries belong to the rose family, genus Rubus. Two species, R. leucodermis and R. occidentalis are commonly known as black raspberries. They are said to be one of the richest berries in terms of anthocyanin content. Previous studies have already indicated the potential of black raspberries in cancer therapy. A 2006 trial reported positive effects in patients with Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-malignant for of esophageal cancer.

According to Dr. Stoner

The National Cancer Institute recommends that every American eat at least four to six helpings of fruit and vegetables each day. We suggest that one of these helpings be berries of some sort… a daily diet of about 1.4 to 2 cups of fresh berries may be ideal for staving off certain types of cancer.”

Photo credit: oregonberry.com

Thanksgiving special: cranberries can protect you from cancer and infection

November 26, 2008 by  
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They look good, they taste good but are they healthy? Fresh cranberries, cranberry juice – and not to forget the cranberry sauce that goes with the turkey on the Thanksgiving table.

Well, good news for cranberry lovers because your favorite berries actually give you health benefits that can blow your mind out and kill the cancer cells inside you.

Background info

The American cranberry, whose scientific name is Vaccinium macrocarpon is a fruit native to North America. It is closely related to two other American natives of the same genus, the blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolia) and the bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). There are also other types of cranberries found in Europe.

Cranberries and ovarian cancer

A study by researchers at Rutgers University showed that cranberries can help enhance the potency of chemotherapy platinum drugs like cisplatin and paraplatin used in the treatment of ovarian cancer. The researchers demonstrated this effect of cranberry extract in studies on ovarian cell lines in the lab. In addition, the berry extract may also help in reducing the side effects of the said chemotherapeutic drugs.

According a report in the Science Daily

the active compounds in the extract are powerful antioxidants called ‘A-type’ proanthocyanidins that are unique to cranberries and not found in other fruits. .. Based on research by other groups, these compounds appear to bind to and block certain tumor promoter proteins found in the ovarian cancer cells, they say. The result is that the cancer cells become more vulnerable to attack from the platinum drugs…” 

Cranberries and infections

According to a report in the American Academy of Family Physicians, cranberries can be used in the treatment of urinary tract infections.

“Research suggests that its mechanism of action is preventing bacterial adherence to host cell surface membranes… more recent, randomized controlled trials demonstrate evidence of cranberry’s utility in urinary tract infection prophylaxis. Supporting studies in humans are lacking for other clinical uses of cranberry. Cranberry is a safe, well-tolerated herbal supplement that does not have significant drug interactions.”

Another research indicates that cranberries also have a protective effect against the bacteria Helicobacter pylori that causes stomach ulcers.

Other health benefits

Cranberries are rich in polyphenols and oxidants, compounds known for their benefits to cardiovascular health. This study conducted by researchers of the Winona State University demonstrated that low-calorie, unsweetened cranberry juice has a positive effect on the metabolism of people with type 2 diabetes.

So on Thursday, remember to concentrate on the healthy part of the Thanksgiving feast! For the nutritional details of cranberries and cranberry products, click here.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Cancer: A matter of “Terrain”, not Genes

September 19, 2008 by  
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Today in Battling Cancer we have a guest post by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD,
Author of Anticancer: A New Way of Life

I am happy to forward any of your questions to him.

Genes account for at most 15% of cancers. What matters most in prevention or getting the most of treatments is not our genetic makeup but the biology we create within our body to support our natural defenses against tumor growth.

The Genetic Fallacy
Most of us live with the false belief that cancer is a genetic Russian roulette. As one in three of us will die of cancer, the odds are indeed as bad — worse actually — than those of that dreadful game. But it is NOT genetic. A large Scandinavian study of identical twins (who share exactly the same genes) found that in the majority of cases they did not share the risk for cancer. In fact, the authors concluded, in the New England Journal of Medicine, that “inherited genetic factors make a minor contribution to susceptibility to most types of [cancers]. This finding indicates that the environment has the principal role in causing common cancers.”

A New Approach to Cancer: Changing the Terrain
When it comes to treating cancer, there is no alternative to conventional treatments: surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy or, soon, molecular genetics.

However, these treatments target the tumor much like an army wages war: focusing all of its efforts on destroying the cancerous cells. Yet, it’s as important to change the environment that supports the growth new cancer cells as it is to continue to pound them with targeted attacks.

We all need to learn to change the “terrain” — our biology — to make it as inhospitable as possible to cancer growth. As much for prevention as to increase the benefits of treatments.

The new model of cancer that has emerged from the last 10 years of research moves us away from genetics and squarely into the life-style factors that we can control.

Indeed, another New England Journal of Medicine study showed that people who were adopted at birth have the cancer risk of their adoptive parents rather than that of the parents who gave them their genes. At most, genetic factors contribute 15% to our cancer risk. What matters for 85% of cancers is what we do — or do not do enough of — with our life.

Since we all carry cancer cells in us, what determines whether we do develop cancer is to a large extent the balance between factors that promote cancer, and factors that help resist cancer.

Common promoters of cancer are:

  • Cigarette smoke and more than two alcoholic beverages per day
  • Refined sugar and white flour
  • Omega-6 fatty acids and trans-fats (corn, soybean, sunflower and safflower oils, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils)
  • A variety of chemical agents present in some foods and household products (parabens, phthalates, PVCs, pesticdes and herbicides)
  • Complete lack of physical activity
  • Responses to stress that lead to feelings of helplessness and persistent despair rather than a sense that one can help oneself or count on the support of others

Factors that slow down the growth of cancer are:

  • Several phytochemicals contained in some fruits and some vegetables, some herbs and spices.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish, canola and flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, some green vegetables)
  • Physical activity (at least 30 minutes of walking six times a week)
  • The ability to manage stress so as to avoid helplessness (emotional management through meditation or yoga or good psychotherapy) or benefiting from the support of intimate relationships, or both.

Knowing that genetics are only a minor contribution to cancer helps us realize how much is in our power to help our body be a stronger partner in nourishing life and resisting cancer.

©2008 David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD

Author Bio
David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and cofounder of the Center for Integrative Medicine. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Paris, France. He has been a cancer survivor for 16 years, and is the author of the International Best-Seller Anticancer: A New Way of Life, coming from Viking September 2008.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.